Merriam-Frontier Award Winner to Read at UM’s Mansfield Library

February 10, 2016

University of Montana graduate student Alida Dean was selected to receive this year’s Merriam-Frontier Award. Photo credit: Karin Schalm.MISSOULA University of Montana Creative Writing Program graduate student Alida Dean of Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, is the recipient of this year’s Merriam-Frontier Award.

Dean will read her award-winning submission at 4:10 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19, in the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library Theta Rho Room. The reading is free and open to the public.

After graduating from Smith College in 2012, Dean served in the Peace Corps in Nepal. Now, she is an MFA candidate in fiction at UM. Her writing explores the space between who people are and who they’d like to be, among other things.

The judges, Lois Welch, Rachel Mindell and Ginny Merriam, said they selected Dean’s work because she “expresses a unique perspective on the world, full of humility and strangeness.” They also said, “Her stories and essays are compelling on a long spectrum, from sentence-level to plotting to that world view. She gives her readers a balance between strong sense of place and the human experience of her characters.”

The Merriam-Frontier Award was established by H.G. Merriam, UM professor of English and creative writing from 1919 to 1954, and includes a $500 prize and funds to publish the winning entry as a chapbook. The contest is open to undergraduate and graduate students each autumn semester.

Frontier, later titled Frontier and Midland, was a distinguished quarterly journal founded and edited by H.G. Merriam and published at UM from 1920 to 1939. Contributors included then-emerging talents Wallace Stegner, A.B. Guthrie Jr., William Saroyan, Dorothy Johnson, John Mason Brown, Weldon Kees, Thomas McGrath and many others. A particular strength of the journal was its frequent publication of work by young authors, a tradition the Merriam-Frontier Award honors and continues.

The reading is sponsored by the UM Creative Writing Program, the Merriam-Frontier Award and the Mansfield Library. For more information call Creative Writing Program Coordinator Karin Schalm at 406-243-5267, email or visit

Contact: Karin Schalm, UM Creative Writing Program coordinator, 406-243-5267,